Every year for more than two decades, students at Tri-Valley School build structures for Denali National Park. Student artists add a special Alaska flair to those structures.

Each year, art students brainstorm a theme and the medium they would like to work in, according to art teacher Kassandra Mirosh. The theme is intended to compliment the setting of the building’s final destination — Denali National Park.

“This year, things were a little different,” Mirosh said. “Because of Covid, students spent a lot of time doing online school and this is a difficult way to build a cabin.”

In 2021, the Building Trades class built only one cabin, a duplex, but it featured a large plain white wall in each section — a perfect canvas for these young artists.

To fill that space, Mirosh called upon local Alaska artist Amy Reisland-Speer, who is well known as a landscape artist.

It was a wonderful opportunity for students to get to work with a local artist, gain some new skills and create beautiful paintings for each side for the duplex,” Mirosh said.

As for Reisland-Speer, she loved working with young student artists.

“It was fun watching  them practice various techniques on the paintings and watching the images come to life,” she said. “Seeing the joy in their eyes as they developed each step of the painting was very rewarding for me.”

“I’ve really missed being with young artists since Covid started,” she added.

This year, instead of having individual projects, each painting had a team of three working on it.

“The students probably learned as much about working together well as they did about painting,” Mirosh said.

The longtime Building Trades program began as a school-to-work program and has earned national recognition over the years. The park provides building supplies and a teacher/carpenter. The Denali Borough School District provides a teacher/carpenter and students.

Since 2000, an entire generation of students has learned construction skills, the park has been able to provide quality cabins for employee housing, and some of those building trade students now work in local jobs, using the skills they learned in this program.

Over the years, students built a shower house for Wonder Lake, cabins for employees and greenhouses.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at kcapps@newsminer.com. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.